Emergency care order where mother detained under Mental Health Act – 2020vol2#19

An emergency care order (ECO) was granted in the District Court for three children whose mother was involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act and whose father is unknown. It was one of two ECOs heard that day.

The court heard that the mother refused to enter her house. She was found outside of her home, undressed and holding her youngest child, who was crying. Her two other children were in the car.

The court heard that gardai attended at the scene, but the mother would not engage or answer questions. A garda gave evidence that he had immediate concerns for the children’s welfare, so he took the children to the Garda station and contacted the Child and Family Agency (CFA). It was agreed with the social workers that the children would stay with a friend of the mother’s overnight and the social workers would do a welfare check in the morning. The Gardai were later contacted when the mother was found standing in another resident’s garden and refusing to leave. Gardai arrived and detained her under the Mental Health Act.

The CFA social worker told the court that the family was not previously known to the CFA. She said that they had become aware of the case following a referral from a neighbour reporting an argument between a mother and daughter where the mother was described by the neighbour as having some sort of psychotic incident and the daughter thought that the mother would harm the children. The social workers attended and found the mother behaving strangely, she thought the house was cursed and refused to enter. They made arrangements for the mother and children to stay at a friend’s house, but again the mother refused to enter the house.

The social worker told the court that the mother was then brought to hospital and admitted to the psychiatric ward. She said that the mother was very unwell and the social worker felt that she did not have capacity to consent to her children being in care. The children were brought to an emergency foster placement where they settled okay, but a new placement would have to be found. The court was told that the mother had a good family network, but that she was the sole carer of the children, so there was an immediate risk if the ECO was not granted.

The ECO was granted, and the judge lifted the in-camera rule so that the solicitor could speak to the mother’s attending consultant.